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Shut down early, Phillies' lineup explodes late to win another series

Shut down early, Phillies' lineup explodes late to win another series originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

MIAMI — Shut out through five innings for the first time in more than a month, the Phillies finally got to Jesus Luzardo in the top of the sixth Saturday, scoring four times to turn around a game that became a laugher.

Whit Merrifield led off with Kyle Schwarber sidelined by a sore back and started the rally with a one-out double off Luzardo, who had allowed just two hits prior. J.T. Realmuto singled him in to tie the game. Luzardo struck out Bryce Harper and was lifted by manager Skip Schumaker, who did not plan to extend his lefty too far. This was Luzardo's return from the injured list after missing three weeks with elbow tightness.

The tough lefty was pulled for right-handed reliever Anthony Maldonado, who allowed a single to Alec Bohm and walked Nick Castellanos to set up Bryson Stott's bases-clearing triple just inside the first-base line.

The Phillies scored four more runs in the eighth on four consecutive singles by the 6-7-8-9 hitters. They won, 8-3, to improve to 28-12 on the season and 13-5 on the road.

Stott has been highly productive at the plate over his last 10 games, hitting .375 with three doubles, a triple, 13 RBI, eight walks and six strikeouts. He ended the day with his highest batting average (.259) and OPS (.759) since the fifth game of the season.

"You always want to play well," said Stott, whose numbers were down in April. "When your team is rolling, you've got to find a different way, whether that's making a tag at second, turning a double play or anything like that.

"I never blew it out of proportion for myself. A couple years ago maybe, I would've tinkered with some stuff. But just playing and realizing you're going to go on stretches where you're hitting .200, it's just baseball. You've got to keep getting in the box and keep taking good swings.

"In college, I struggled my junior year a little bit and went from a huge leg kick and spread out and had a smaller leg kick. I had a toe-tap when I debuted (in the majors) and got exposed with that and now I'm doing the no-stride full time. It's always adjusting as the pitchers adjust."

Castellanos avoided trying to do too much in the plate appearance just before Stott. There were two runners in scoring position for him in a tie game but Maldonado was struggling to locate and Castellanos waited him out for a walk to load the bases. He, too, has had much better at-bats the last two weeks.

Manager Rob Thomson sat Stott on Friday and sat Brandon Marsh both Friday and Saturday with the Phillies playing four straight games against left-handed starting pitchers. Both Edmundo Sosa and Cristian Pache held up their end of the bargain. Pache went 5-for-9 with a double in the two games and Sosa also reached base 5 of 9 times.

The Phils' 6-7-8-9 hitters were on base in 17 of 36 plate appearances Friday and Saturday.

Taijuan Walker surrendered just one run over six innings to the Marlins, who ran into three outs in the first two innings. Realmuto caught Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Vidal Brujan stealing and Nick Gordon was nailed by Pache trying to stretch a single into a double.

Walker issued only one walk, which is always a key for him. His ERA as a Phillie is nearly two runs lower (3.17) when he walks one or no batters than it is when he walks multiple (5.16).

"Really kind of ahead of what I expected because of his ability to throw strikes because we didn't see that last year," Thomson said of Walker. "We saw a lot of spray last year, but now he's commanding the baseball a lot better. Velocity's probably where it was last year after three starts. Stuff's good but the strike-throwing ability has really been good."

Walker hasn't been throwing the splitter, his best pitch, nearly as much as last season because he hasn't quite developed the feel for it yet. His command through three starts has been more consistent than it was in 2023, though.

"Still trying to get the feel for my splitter but my slider and cutter and two-seam feel really good," he said. "I feel like my location's really good right now. I know the type of pitcher I am. We have a really good defense. I just try to make them put the ball in play."

The Phillies lost their first two series of the season but haven't dropped once since, winning eight and splitting three. They're also 5-0-1 in six road series.

They have Zack Wheeler, the ace of aces, on the mound Sunday afternoon as they look for their fifth sweep in the last eight series. They face another left-hander in Braxton Garrett.